Preservation efforts create neighborhood improvements

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 7, 2003

David Hurlbut and employees of Berry Lawn Service waited for a cement truck as rain slowly began to fall on Water Avenue Monday morning.

A retaining wall made of standard concrete blocks sloping down toward the Alabama River stood ready to be filled as Hurlbut examined a black metal fence allowing entry to what will one day be the corridor leading down to a patio looking over the river.

Hurlbut, a preservation consultant and owner of the old Harmony Club, said the fence, path leading toward the river and patio were part of a long-term construction project.

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Work on the retaining wall began last Monday, but the fence was erected in late July.

Hurlbut said he became involved in the project after speaking with David Norton, the property owner. &uot;He had to do something,&uot; Hurlbut said.

The solution was the fence, gateway and retaining wall.

When complete, the visitor will step through the black fence at the top and walk down to a green fence near the river’s bank.

Behind the building a patio will exist and be host to events such as art shows.

The area is private property, though, and will remain closed at other times for safety reasons.

Norton, a local attorney, is no stranger to historical preservation.

His office rests on the second floor of the building adjoining the pathway, which leads down to the river.

Before opening the office, Norton said plaster was falling off the walls and the roof was leaking.

Hurlbut said plans for the area didn’t stop with the corridor, patio and fence.

Once it’s complete, which could occur in six months, he hopes to work on Bienville Park.

Bienville Park sits next to the work area and is home to a rock monument.

Hurlbut said he’d like to move the monument to the park’s center and have benches surrounding it.

Hurlbut pointed to Rural Studio as inspiration for the current project.

Rural Studio, a program conceived by two Auburn University professors in 1993, gives architectural students the opportunity to design and build structures while &uot;thinking outside the box.&uot;

According to Hurlbut, Rural Studio uses older materials and proves that a project doesn’t have to be costly. &uot;You don’t have to do things the way you’ve been doing them,&uot; he added.

Hurlbut said that in the coming months he hoped people would look toward the river as they drive down Water Avenue, see the iron fence and think it’s an elegant addition to a historic property.